UND commit Mac Swanson thriving in USHL playoffs
Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, Swanson enters the Clark Cup Finals as the leading scorer for the Fargo Force.
GRAND FORKS — Not many 16-year-olds attempt to play in the United States Hockey League.
With USHL players ranging up to their 20s, it's a near-impossible transition for young players to make.
UND commit Mac Swanson has been an outlier this season.
Not only did he make the Fargo Force out of camp as a 16-year-old, he's played on the team's top line the entire year and is now thriving in the Clark Cup Playoffs.
Swanson, of Anchorage, is the leading playoff scorer for the Force, who open the Clark Cup Finals at 7:05 p.m. Friday against the Youngstown Phantoms in Fargo's Scheels Arena. Game 2 is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Saturday.
Swanson has three goals, seven assists and 10 points in six playoff games (1.67 points per game).
The 5-foot-7, 157-pound left winger has more points than anyone playing in the finals, despite being the second-youngest player on either Fargo or Youngstown's roster. Phantoms defenseman Tory Pitner is two months younger.
Only one player in the entire league has more points in the playoffs — Lincoln's Mason Marcellus has 12 in nine games (1.33 ppg). Marcellus and Lincoln were eliminated last round.
"I think so much of Mac's success goes back to the type of person he is and the type of worker he is," Fargo coach Nick Oliver said. "This is a difficult league for a 16-year-old to jump into and not only survive but to excel and have success. It was pretty obvious early on he was going to be a player who could not only survive but be a big part of our team's success.
"He wasn't handed anything this year. He's come in and earned everything he's gotten as a young player. That speaks to the type of person he is and the type of worker he is."
During the regular season, Swanson racked up 55 points in 57 games.
The only 2006-born player who tallied more points was Boston University commit Macklin Celebrini, the potential No. 1 overall NHL draft pick in 2024. Celebrini, who played for Chicago, won the league's MVP award.
Swanson was consistent this season. His longest point drought was four games. That came in late February and early March. Upon breaking that, he tallied points in 10 of the next 11.
"I think that's been the fun part of watching Mac's progression," Oliver said. "Every player during the course of a long season is going to hit that wall physically and mentally. Mac only had a few minor stretches where he broke down a little bit. Physically, he's gotten stronger throughout the course of the year. I think his confidence level is increasing. We're even starting to watch some of his natural leadership come through as these games have gotten bigger. He's driving a lot of what we do on the ice and off the ice."
Swanson, who will come to UND in the fall of 2024, also has benefited from playing with two veteran players — Notre Dame commit Cole Knuble (66 points) and Colorado College commit Bret Link (55).
"That's the only line that's been together from early in the season until now — when all three are healthy and available," Oliver said. "All three are really competitive players. They're really hard workers. I think they've been able to build a lot of chemistry throughout the year. They're three guys that find ways to impact the game in a lot of different ways. They can impact it when it's tight checking. They impact it offensively when games get up and down."
Clark Cup Playoff scoring leaders
12 points — Mason Marcellus, Lincoln, Quinnipiac commit
10 points — Mac Swanson, Fargo, North Dakota commit
9 points — Cole Knuble, Fargo, Notre Dame commit
9 points — Doug Grimes, Lincoln, Boston University commit
8 points — Owen Michaels, Dubuque, Western Michigan commit
8 points — Boston Buckberger, Lincoln, Denver commit
8 points — Martin Misiak, Youngstown, uncommitted
USHL's top 2006-born scorers
2022-23 regular season
86 points — Macklin Celebrini, F, BU commit
55 points — Mac Swanson, F, North Dakota commit
47 points — Trevor Connelly, F, Providence commit
45 points — Sacha Boisvert, F, North Dakota commit